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Evidence: Poems

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  763 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Never afraid to shed the pretense of academic poetry, never shy of letting the power of an image lie in unadorned language, Mary Oliver offers us poems of arresting beauty that reflect on the power of love and the great gifts of the natural world. Inspired by the familiar lines from William Wordsworth, “To me the meanest flower that blows can give / Thoughts that do often ...more
Hardcover, 88 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Years ago I asked a student in an undergraduate poetry class if she liked Mary Oliver's work.

"She the lady who write about bears and otters and her dog?" my asked.

"Her," I said.

"Nah. Don't really like her," she replied.

This is possible? I asked myself. It is possible. How? I wondered.

Don't know.

More recently a friend said of Mary Oliver "you love her or you hate her."

How? I wondered.

I have just read Evidence, and I have an answer.

It's not possible.

Oliver is honest, real, tangible. She is taking
Jan 28, 2010 Liam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
I imagined the book arriving in the mail Friday, and then reading it on Saturday. Well, when I biked home Thursday by 6:10 p.m. I found 2 boxes from Amazon at my door. I got in, doffed my gear and drank some water. I opened the boxes. The second housed Individuation in Fairy Tales, so excited to read it this weekend. The first held Mary Oliver's Evidence. I walked to the frig. Poured a glass of Chenin Blanc Vionigeir and started reading randomly. I cooked some pasta laced with cheese and herbs, ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is my first experience with Mary Oliver, and it's love love love love love.
I want to devour the pages and thus incorporate her work into the soup of my cells.
Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astoni
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mary Oliver reminds me of the cards at Hallmark that are labeled "simply stated" - she doesn't apologize for not saying more than needs to be said, meaning some poems are 3 lines at most. Simplicity should not be confused for nothingness, because she is remarkably eloquent.

For instance, "We Shake with Joy":

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.

My favorite of this volume is "To Begin With, the Sweet Grass," a poem in multiple nu
I think that you understand a poet through their words. I offer the following words

A couple of quotes-
from Li Po and the Moon
There is the story of the old Chinese poet:
at night in his boat he went drinking and dreaming
and singing
then drowned as he reached for the moon's reflection.
Well, probably each of us, at some time, has been
as desperate.
Not the moon, though.

Landscape in Winter
Upon the snow that says nothing,
that is endlessly brilliant,
there is something
heaped, dark and motionless.
Then com
Bodhidasa Caldwell
Such a delicate, tender and deep evocation of a life lived with meaning.

This is one from the collection.

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
Feb 01, 2010 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Karen by: George Edensword-Breck
I still feel unbearable shame when I think that on my visit to Bennington, not yet 18, I sat in on Mary Oliver's class and got into an argument with her about whether there are any worthwhile women poets. I said: no. I didn't know anything about poetry or anything else, and she is Mary Oliver, the sweetest, wisest woman and an incredible poet. Her poetry punctuated my life-planning retreat at Earth Sanctuary with my sister this weekend, and I wish I could apologize to her personally for being an ...more
Timothy Browning
I'm hoping this is the start of a Mary Oliver phase, as the digital public library has a solid collection. Apparently she is the unofficial poet laureate of the UU church, although she is not a member herself.
Anyway, Mary Oliver 4 ever.
Goodreads gave me this wonderful hardback edition of Mary Oliver's poems and I'm glad. I am enjoying them so much. She writes about nature, but not about nature as just nature, more as a way to write about life. If the poem was just about a tree or a plant or a bird, I would probably find it boring, but the poems by Oliver are never "just" about anything, they are more about everything. I love the one she wrote about hating adjectives and so many others. I am reading a few of these each day and ...more
Cynthia Egbert
I really love Mary Oliver's poetry. I cannot get enough and I am grateful that our library system seems to have everything that she has written. I am including my two favourite pieces from this volume so that I can find them easily here.

Moon and Water

I wake and spend
he last hours
of darkness
with no one

but the moon.
She listens
to my complaints
like the good

companion she is
And comforts me surely
With her light.
But she, like everyone,

has her own life.
So finally I understand
that she has turned away,
is n
Wonderful poet / beautiful poems.

Evidence: Poems
by Mary Oliver
We create ourselves by our choices. - Kierkegaard


They appeared over the dunes,
they skimmed the trees
and hurried on

to the sea
or some lonely pond
or wherever it is
that swans go,

urgent, immaculate,
the heat of their eyes
staring down
and then away,

the thick spans
of their wings
as bright as snow,
their shoulder-power

inside my own body.
How could I help but adore them?
How could I help but wish

that one of them might drop
Richelle Wilson
Evidence is the second Mary Oliver volume I've read cover-to-cover this month. I enjoyed the tenor and thematic arc of this collection much more than I did Blue Iris. The poems are all new and have great topical range—everything from birds to hearts, moons and flowers, trees and faith, music and Mexico—yet they all work harmoniously together. After I finished reading, I discovered that the collection was inspired by my favorite excerpt from Wordsworth: "To me the meanest flower that blows can gi ...more
Mary Oliver shares an intimate conversation with her reader - each poem giving a glimpse of her joy and wonder at the natural world. Her poems are uplifting and refreshing. She paints a picture with words that catch one moment in time. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.
Take time to pause and breathe in moments of clear, profound purity of thought with each of these poems from Mary Oliver.
May 08, 2009 Lorna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nature lovers, poetry lovers
Shelves: poetry
I received this book as a winner of one of the contests from goodreads. I really enjoy Mary Oliver's poems. I like that she writes about what she sees in her world right outside her home. My favorites are Moon and Water, Schubert, Just Rain, Empty Branch in the Orchard and the title poem Evidence.
I read this when it came out in 2009 and just reread it. For right here and now, it's my favorite book, period. Nearly every poem here is simply wondrous, from the first four-line poem: "There is the heaven we enter/ through institutional grace/ and there are the yellow finches bathing and singing/ in the lowly puddle." Her writing has a Zen eye for nature and a Christian heart for compassion. She sees the joy and grief in everything and inspires the reader to pay more attention and live more fu ...more
I liked this book, but not as much as some of her others. I loved only a handful of the poems.
Amos Smith
To enter Oliver's wilderness is to enter a resplendent sanctuary! She has a facility with words that comes from great intimacy with the natural world. You can tell that she has spent hundreds of hours studying the mysteries of the wilds. And she instinctively knows that if you want to get to know the Artist, you study the art. Her work is at once transcendent and grounded in layer upon layer of texture and detail... A joy to read! -Amos Smith (author of Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianit ...more
This is another strong contribution by Oliver, whose blending of her observations and reflections forge her effective voice., and hits just right on my ear and heart drums, "Yellow," which starts the book being a good example.
Sometimes I need
Only to stand wherever I am
To be blessed. (p.21)

And what would we be, beyond the yardstick,
beyond supper and dollars,
if we were not filled with such wondering? (p.63)

What, in the earth world,
Is there not to be amazed by
And to be steadied by
And to cherish
Mark Bennett
Had never engaged her before, saw her name over and over, praised and admired, and pointed to as an inspiration. Further commentary seems trite and useless, here are some glimpses, some snippets of her loving vision:

… I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, lo
The mockingbird
Opens his throat
Among the thorns
For his own reasons

But doesn’t mind
If we pause
To listen
And learn something

For ourselves;
He doesn’t stop,
He nods
His gray head

With the frightfully bright eyes
He flirts
His supple tail,
He says:

Listen, if you would listen.
There’s no end
To good talk
To passion songs,

To the melodies
That say
This branch,
This tree is mine,

To the wholesome
Of being alive
On a patch

Of this green earth
In the deep
pleasures of summer.
What a bird!

Your clocks,
Apr 19, 2012 A~lotus rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Poetry lovers
Recommended to A~lotus by: No one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Reading Mary Oliver's poetry is like listening to Enya's music. It's all delicate and beautiful, but aside from a few star pieces, it all starts to blend together after a while. Mary Oliver's poems are beautiful for their focus on nature and spirituality, and for their simplicity, and some of her poems are absolutely gorgeous and would make my Top 20 Poems Ever list if I had one. Nevertheless, I get frustrated with reading her poetry after a while. I find myself thinking, "Got that, but when wil ...more
I surprise myself by connecting so readily with the works of Mary Oliver: I, who spent an entire college course on the Romantics digging myself out from under ruined cottages and Aeolian harps. Yet, by and large, I do connect. Oliver is a "nature poet" in the sense that she places great value on details of the physical world, on taking the time to notice and prize elements of existence often considered small or insignificant. She argues with great passion that these details are actually of great ...more
May 09, 2009 Carrie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Mary Oliver was a new poet to me when I received Evidence: Poems in the mail from the Goodreads First Reads program. Oliver reminds me of two of my favorite poets, Luci Shaw and Wendell Berry. Nature speaks to her and her love of nature infuses her poetry. The lessons Oliver learns in nature inform her view of life, love, death, and the world around her.

Unlike some modern poets, Oliver isn’t in love with her own pen, and she doesn’t use overly frilly or incomprehensible language - she simply exp
Jun 23, 2009 Gordon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nature lovers
Recommended to Gordon by: Good Reads First Reads Program
Oliver’s poetry bridges humanity to the natural world in a humbling way that demands the reader to become cognizant of his or her vulnerability – the vulnerability that is often neglected in today’s culture of convenience and disconnection from nature. She broaches simple necessities that we take for granted, such as water, and crafts beautiful and powerful poetry to demonstrate their importance and our absolute reliance on them. Life, death, the omnipotence of nature, God, and many variety of b ...more
I particularly like the poem about Schubert, the poem about the moon rowing away into the night and the poem about a meeting with a deer she calls Swirler shortly before his death--the poem ends "In my house there are a hundred half-done poems./ Each of us leaves an unfinished life."

"He takes such small steps/to express our longings." Schubert

"And, bending close,/as we all dream of doing,/she rows with her white arms/through the dark water..." Moon and Water

"And what do I risk to tell you this,
Jen Arthur
One probably shouldn't read a book of Mary Oliver's poems in one day. It's like swallowing an entire meal in one gulp. It probably would have been best slowly savored over a few days, but the library wanted their book back. Such is life. There are really so many good ones in here, but my favorite is probably "To Begin With, the Sweet Grass." "Mysteries, Yes," is also so great. You can't go wrong with any of them, though.
"Never shy of letting the power of an image lie in unadorned language," Mary Oliver sometimes kills the music that should be poetry. Maybe she's a good philosopher, but I'm not always sure she's a good poet. I often think she wrote too much, edited and revised too little. And this book is an example of too much. I grew tired of her voice quickly. I think Oliver is someone I can only enjoy in small doses.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

“Mary Oliver. In a region that has produced most of the nation's poet laureates, it is risky to single out one fragile 71-year-old bard of Provincetown. But Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observati
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“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
“Love yourself. Then forget it.
Then, love the world.”
More quotes…